Sam King
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Is imperialism the ‘highest stage of capitalism’?
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It is often assumed that in describing imperialism as ‘the highest stage of capitalism’, Lenin thought the system would imminently collapse. Alternatively, he is believed to have viewed the specific forms of imperialist rule in his own time – like colonialism or inter-imperialist war – as essential, permanent characteristics of imperialism. Starting from these caricatures, the dramatic changes that have taken place since Lenin’s time are assumed to so thoroughly rebuke his ‘highest stage’ that no further evidence is needed to reject his theory entirely. It is further assumed that the concept of capitalism’s highest stage is Lenin’s own. In fact, it is in Marx’s Capital, volume 3. The concept does not mean capitalism has stopped developing. Rather, with the advent of joint stock companies (later ‘trusts’ and today multinational corporations), private property had become the property of associated owners – that is, social property, but still privately owned. The only possible further development (and that able to resolve the contradiction of now collective private property) was, Marx argued, establishment of ‘the property of associated producers, as outright social property’ – socialism. Imperialism showed that Marx’s concept had come fully into being. It further demonstrated that the convergence of industrial with banking capital brought about the formation of monopoly finance capital as the unified capitalist form encompassing large businesses in all areas. On the basis of Marx and Lenin’s concepts it is possible to critique the contemporary Marxian ‘financialisation’ analyses, which falsely separates the financial sector and businesses from the rest of capital.

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Imperialism and the development myth

How rich countries dominate in the twenty-first century


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